Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Sun

Have you ever thought about how good an example of God the sun is? The bright object, one which live revolves around here on earth. The brightest object in the sky, outshining all the rest. So bright you cannot look at it without becoming blind, and yet the light of it guides our paths and keeps us from stumbling. As I watched the sun slowly making it’s way over the horizon of the trees I was struck again by how bright it is. As it crept over I could almost see each ray of sunlight as it traveled speeding across until it hit my fingers. What a great symbol that He has put here in this world.

English Vintner

Friday, 28 September 2012

The dirty life

I sit here, without internet, watching Jether cook. The smell of whole grain soaked sourdough toast mixing with pasture raised pork sausage and roasting butternut squash. Outside is lightning and a light rain. Today was a pretty good day. Harvested and packaged and got everything ready for CSA all by myself, with Jether to help pick jazz. I am competent enough I guess to be able to handle the CSA, which is a good thing I guess. It’s nice to know people are confident in you. (Jether just tossed me a shriveled somewhat rotten garlic...I’m not sure what to do with it.) After harvesting and packaging and picking enough for 10 CSA shares and market to sell (11 different items in the CSA share!). “Right on!” has been the phrase to say over the past couple days, I picked it up from someone I met at Saturday market, and the history of it all I’ll have to tell later, it’s quite funny. 

For lunch we had eggs (now that the chickens are off strike we’re eating about half a dozen a day each!), toast a little milk kefir (the goats milk is so good!) and green beans, with an appetizer of cucumbers and hummus. I’m finally getting the milk from the bad goat, Pretty Face. For the past 5 weeks I’ve milked her and only been able to milk her about half way and never been able to save what I got, always onto the milk stand. But with the help of Jether who can keep an eye on the feed I’ve been able to not only fully milk her, but to get almost all the milk. Which means a pint from each goat right now, so half a gallon a day, not bad. We are just keeping up with demand between me and Jether mostly, and making milk kefir. It’s a good thing I’m getting all of Pretty Face’s because we’d be out of milk if not.

Ahh...the farm life. Getting up before 6am, doing chores until 7am. Making them fun by jumping fences and cooking outside by a campfire at night. To the left of me is 6 dozen eggs, almost one days worth of eggs, now that the chickens are producing again. On the counter beside me is milk kefir, made with goats milk, also from the farm. About the only thing we don’t have here is grain, oil, spices, and sugar. You can get all the vegetables from here, meat, eggs, milk, it’s all here. You could live off of what was here and be living well. My diet has definitely had less carbs since I came to the farm, I don’t like to spend any more than I have to and you can get by with eating what’s here. The work is physical and non stressful. You’re working with people, but they’re people you know and enjoy being around. You’re constantly around animals and plants, watching the animals eat the plants, and vegetables go from seed to harvest. It’s not always fun work, but at the end of the day it’s satisfying to look back and see what you finished. There is always something to be done on a farm, you just have to be able to prioritize it and get done what is most urgent. Unless you have lots of help and a very small farm I’m not sure you’re ever fully on top of things while vegetables are growing. My muscles are sore from work and working out when I get the chance (I can now do sets of pushups in the lower 20s). My arms are more tan than they’ve ever been. But it is enjoyable. Liveable. 

I definitely miss home, but I’m going to miss being here as well. I’ve learned a lot, seen a lot and experienced a lot. I’ve seen a chicken lay an egg, how much fresher can you get? I’ve drunk milk from the source. Experienced the shock of an electric fence. Been knocked over by a cow. Mobbed by chickens scrambling for food. It’s a dirty life for sure, but it is good and I like it. I’m often drawing on my experience from working at the Stone Table to cook what I have here. 

Well, supper looks about ready. It’s a quarter till 9pm. Supper here is usually later, since chores end around 7pm and then you have to cook up something. Tomorrow will mark just over one week and I will be home. I have many ideas and plans for when I get home, I’m hoping to incorporate some of the stuff I’ve learned here and put it into my garden when I get back. I’m really considering doing a winter CSA this year for a few members to get some cash, and maybe a Spring one too if that works out. I’m feeling a little bit nervous about decisions coming up but I’ll rest in my Father who knows what is best and has already planned out my path. 

English Vintner

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Farm Life

What is the feeling rushing through you when you reach out to test an electric fence? Knowing that in the next second you may or may not feel a volt surge through your body leaving a burning feeling on your finger and almost knock you off your feet. Or for that matter, running straight into an electric fence, cow strength, and not getting shocked because it happened so fast!

But this is farm life. Getting up before the sun to do chores, collecting eggs, feeding chickens, having contests jumping electric fences, and milking goats. All the while trying to stay warm in 40 degree weather.

The food is good. Fresh vegetables, greens, roots, eggs, milk, and meat all from one place, who knew? Every meal is a farm to table meal. To see what is around and extra and come up with a dish to make of it. Sometimes I’m running low on ideas, but when one works out really well I’m inspired to keep trying.

Today marks 11 days until I will drive home. I’m enjoying my time here, but I am ready to get home to my own garden and to all my experiments and hobbys and projects I have going on. 

English Vintner

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Autumn Morning

What a glorious Sunday morning. The ones you wish were every week. After a week of physical labor what a glorious day to rest and worship God. A day set apart for Him. To look on our week of work and see that it is good, and to rest 1 out of 7 because our Father did the same when he created all this beauty. 

It wasn’t too chilly last night, a low 50Fº, but we spent the night at Joel and Megan’s house and even with windows open it doesn’t get too cold. 

I picked Jether up Thursday night around 9pm. He called me to say they were about 30 minutes away just as I had finished washing all the dishes and was about to sit down and get a bite to eat. I hurriedly shoved the food down grabbed my wallet and some goats milk and rushed out the door. I drove to the spot, just off 495 and I hadn't been there 30 seconds when they showed up. Uncle Paul said they had made very good timing and had been within minutes of each other when Aunt Jenny dropped Jether off in Knoxville. We threw his stuff in the back of my truck and headed back to the farm. We drunk the goats milk and talked a little bit about the day ahead. It seemed almost unreal to have my best friend coming up and working with me. I had envisioned this last year when I was thinking about interning, it would be so cool if we could both intern together, but I didn' think the chance very likely. And yet, here a year later we're doing it, God surely does love his children and blesses them beyond what we need or think we need.

We arranged the room in the barn a little nicer, certainly a little cozier and tidier. We pushed two beds together and shared the blankets (it gets quite cold when there is no insulation between you and 45-50Fº) between us. We set the alarm for 6:30am but didn't get up till quarter till. I didn't have chores on Friday so we had that luxury. We ate breakfast inside before heading out to work around 8am. We got a bit of work done, a lot of cutting out weeds and such. We broke at 12 and made lunch, found some leftovers and other jazz. We talked and did some email and reading until around 3pm. We did some more work until around 6pm. Then we gathered firewood and got some food for a stew. We cooked chicken and added carrots, radishes, beets, kale, and sweet potatoes, all from the farm. About the only thing you need to buy here is flour and oil, all vegetables and meat and milk and eggs are all here, even fruit. There was a birthday party going on in the barn and they had a fire near us to cook their hotdogs and s'mores. They offered us hotdogs which, we eventually took, but fed to the dogs, I gave one a lick and decided I didn't want it. We watched the stars and enjoyed a fire, though smokey at times till around 10pm. 

We woke up at 6:30am. I was going to make muffins for market but decided against it, I wasn't sure whose ingredients to use and I had enough to do already with Joel and Megan gone. I will say the day would've been a lot harder without Jether. We warmed up our stew over a fire and started picking vegetables around 8am. Jether picked cherry and big tomatoes and I picked basil, eggplant, summer squash, carrots and some parsley. Cherry tomatoes take the longest to pick and so Jether picked the whole time I did. We packaged it all up, some for selling and most for CSA.

Market was pretty good as far as sales went, and it was kind of nice to just hang out and relax, not having to do much. Lunch was good, sausages grilled with onions. Around 2:30pm I checked email and then we went to work again. We carried two fridges up into the barn and hauled sweet potatoes up to my room where they were and layered them in with straw. We took care of all the sweet potatoes, putting the big ones in the fridges and smaller ones in the greenhouse. They've cured and now just need to be stored. We worked till 6pm. When we got some food together and headed over to Joel and Megan's house. We stopped at the end of the driveway to get the pig that had run down into the road, we helped get her back into her pen (it's not a typical day at the farm unless a pig gets out. You leave a door unlocked for 15 min and she'll check it every 5 or so and get out! they're so smart! I think 5 out of 7 days a pig gets out!)

We got to Joel and Megan's house and with the little bit of light outside left Jether used a weedeater to mow the grass in the yard. I worked on supper. I cut up tomatoes and started roasting them in the oven in the oven for soup. I sautèed onions, garlic and basil on the stove top. Jether came in and started mixing up the bread starter he'd brought and soaking flour for pancakes for breakfast. I made a mess of the kitchen (it's small and not too efficient with space) with blending tomatoes up and cooking this and that, but by 8:45 we had something that was quite good and tasty, Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup. Jether took a shower and rinsed the dishes and I washed them, wiped off counters, swept the floor, organized and cleaned up all around the kitchen. I find that once I start washing dishes cleaning up the rest of the kitchen is easy, I'd say washing dishes is the start and beginning of cleaning a kitchen. I also like being clean and organized, especially in the kitchen and I find it very calming and relaxing to come down to a clean kitchen. By 10pm we had the place looking good and dandy. We headed upstairs and I went to bed and Jether read his fireman book for an hour. 

We got up at 5:50am. I took a shower by candlelight (no lights other than candles!) which was cool and then went downstairs. Jether was mixing up pancakes and the world was still asleep. I really love early mornings. I brewed a big mug of coffee and we started eating breakfast which was pancakes and sausage. They were delicious. I went outside for a few minutes to enjoy the morning. The sun was just starting to hit the trees, the air had a chill to it, and I had a mug of steaming coffee. I thought about how much I loved this time of day. Most people still in bed, and yet here I am reveling in God's glorious nature. We finished cooking pancakes (we made a lot!) and then headed to the farm. Jether was going to skype or call to meet with his mission trip team that will go to Honduras in November. We got to the farm around 7:30am and he skyped for a while and then used a phone, and now is charging my cell phone while on his and switching them out since they both ran out of battery. We will head over to church at 10 and then read and relax the rest of the day.

English Vintner

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


The change in the weather is for the better. Summer, though not as dry as last year (where I've been) has ended and Autumn has begun. To me Autumn doesn't begin on a set day by a calendar, but rather when the earth has said it. Listen to her, what does she say, will it be late or early? This year, it was a little early, though, I'm not complaining. Frankly, it came just in time. After a short visit to my family packed full of adventures (I spent Friday night, through Monday morning there and only received 17 hours of sleep total!) which included a fun movie Friday night, apple picking Saturday afternoon, cider making Saturday night, along with a midnight haul, followed by a bright crisp first day of Autumn. We had fresh cider and orange juice for breakfast with apple and pumpkin pie. Rockland's Farm sausage (where I intern), eggs, and hot coffee! It was a feast and a glorious one too! The table was laden, candles were lit, we had 6 people to a side, and the table was stuffed full of me and my siblings. I love being part of a large family. Sunday was awesome, two good sermons, got to say hi to friends, and had a great lunch of swiss cheese, good bread, apples, and chicken, again, with lit candles. I took a nap because of the lateness of the hour that we went to bed at. I left soon after church as I wanted this weekend to be with my family, not friends. Too often you come back from something and just spend most of your time talking and hanging out with friends and you miss your chance with your family. We had leftover pie and hot mulled cider, followed by a game of mafia. It was a highlight for me as it involved all of the kids. Afterwards I got a chance to play legos with my two youngest brothers, which was fun, I love getting down on there level and playing with them. I watched Princess Bride sunday night and got to bed close to midnight, and was up with my oldest brother who works landscape. I packed, said good byes to him and my mother and headed back to the farm.

Somehow, when you can see the end of the tunnel, it's not so bad anymore. You can appreciate where you are and though you're counting the seconds till you're out, you can still enjoy the moment because you know the end is near. That is me right now. I'm content to be here. I'd rather be home yes, my younger siblings are making cider and doing stuff I would be doing. It is amazing to me how much they can do! They really are quite capable! I have three and a half weeks left here. Work is easier as the summer comes to an end. Mostly were harvesting end of the season stuff, clearing out old plants, planting Fall crops, and enjoying the Autumn weather. Since I got back I've been on a camp fire kick and cooked supper over a fire last night. It was good, cheese, bread, apple, pork chop, and some Tulsi tea to wash it down. This morning I got up at 5:30am (it was hard, because it was SO cold! 49F in the barn where I sleep) and started another fire in the same place. I put rocks around the fire and made a nice little fire pit with a grill over it to cook or grill on. I got a nice little fire going while watching the stars. The stars fascinate me, as does astronomy. I'm not talking about astronomy taught now, about the planets and size and what gas, I'm talking about knowing the constellations, telling time by the stars, the passing of the seasons, eclipse and phases of the moon. The stuff people knew and did back then. At 5:30 you really can see the stars quite well! It's still quite dark and the stars are brilliant, makes you want to be up at 5:30 everyday! What a great way to start the day, seeing the stars and seeing them fade away into the early mist as dawn approaches and the sun makes it's way across the horizon. I always get more done when I'm up early. Actually, I think I may be getting too much sleep lately. I've been getting closer to 8-9 hours of sleep while I was at the farm the past couple weeks. I seriously think I do better on 6-7 hours of sleep. It might be harder to get up, but once I'm up I often have more energy and get more done.

Autumn is a wonderful season. Every year I have such trouble on picking a favorite, at the beginning of each season I think it is my favorite, but by the end I'm usually glad to go to the next. I love summer, and I try to appreciate it as much as my older brother and others do, but Autumn always makes me so happy. I love the green and growing of summer, but I love all the feasts and partys to throw in the Autumn. The cider pressing and apple picking, driving through the mountains, the colors of the trees. I'm already planning camping trips when I get back, Autumn is my favourite season to go camping in. The night time is just cold enough to need a fire, and the day is warm enough to go around in jeans and be comfortable.

Here's to a new season,
the season past was more than a blast,
But with the falling leaves, the changing of the trees
Autumn's here and so here I go, don't hang on, just let go

English Vintner

Monday, 3 September 2012

Sometimes I wish I’d never taken this job. “I wish none of this had happened.” “So do all who come to see such times as this. But that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you.” This conversation between Frodo and Gandalf comes to mind when I think about it. And it’s so true. But I still somehow wish I’d taken the other path. Instead of I sacrificed family for what? For learning, for ‘growing up’? Is it, was it worth it? Maybe. It has to happen sometimes people say, so it may as well of happened now. But what’s the use in thinking back on it. I can’t change the past...and yet sometimes, it hurts me to think of what I could’ve done. Spending the rest of the summer with my family, instead of here, working on a farm. I can’t change it now. But that’s life isn’t it? Full of doubts as to what you should do, and once you’ve decided, you can’t help but remenese about the choice you made.

Is growing up really worth it? What is growing up? Is it going away from your family and causing the pain of sorrow in missing eachother? Is that what it is? Or is it different for everyone? Could it be just in the maturing of one’s soul, while staying around family? Surely, for many a person has done this. It doesn’t have to cause pain, does it? And yet, so often. Like the Breaking of the Fellowship. Things will split us into different paths, different ways. We cannot always remain as one. The only thought that encourages us it that this is all for a purpose, and that in the end, it will be beautiful and even better. But it’s hard right now, isn’t it? To see through the blinding tears of sadness, a better place, a better home. Where all things are right and whole. Where no more tears or weeping will occur, where the God of all will dwell among us, listen to us, talk with us, laugh with us, be our All in All. Yes, there comes a day, much better than we can imagine. A day when all will be reunited in a new heavens and a new earth, and that is the hope. The hope that gets us through a hard day, through a hard trial. When everything around you seems to be chaos we can think of that day and remember, there is one who paid the price, that instead of eternal hell, we will live in eternal glory. And so I close with another quote.

“It is a far far better thing I do, then I have ever done. And it is a far far better rest I go to then I have ever known.”  

English Vintner